It is often suggested that stereotypic behaviour represents a coping response to suboptimal environmental conditions. However, individuals of many species show different coping styles depending on their personality type. Therefore, personality is an important consideration when investigating why only certain individuals become stereotypic under suboptimal conditions. Thus, the aim of this review is to explore the possibility that personality, in particular coping style, may explain why certain individuals are predisposed to stereotypy. We review behavioural and physiological similarities between proactive and stereotypic individuals and suggest that they may in fact be the same phenotype. We also explore how these characteristics might predispose proactive individuals to stereotypy and how this is triggered by the environment. We conclude that personality factors relating to proactivity may mediate whether an animal expresses stereotypic behaviour and that the alternative strategy in such conditions is depression and emotional blunting. We conclude by outlining the animal welfare implications if this hypothesis is correct.